Happy school daze

Ce­re­mony at the Frank­ford Friends School cel­eb­rates plans for a new build­ing. JENNY SWI­GODA / TIMES PHOTO

Pu­pils and teach­ers at the Frank­ford Friends School are ex­cited that con­struc­tion of a new build­ing is about to be­gin.

Ex­pand­ing the Frank­ford Friends School has been talked about for a while. Zon­ing vari­ances had to be gran­ted; sup­port had to be gained; fin­an­cing had to be se­cured. Not small things, but they needed to be ac­com­plished.

They have been, so last week, pu­pils filled the old Or­tho­dox Street school­yard to greet May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter and oth­er of­fi­cials to cel­eb­rate the up­com­ing con­struc­tion of a new build­ing.

Join­ing the may­or for the Sept. 13 ce­re­mony were prin­cip­al Penny Col­gan-Dav­is, teach­ers, staff, pu­pils, loc­al busi­ness and com­munity lead­ers, Rep. Tony Payton Jr. (D-179th dist.) and City Coun­cil­wo­man Maria Quinones Sanc­hez (D-7th dist.), whose son, To­mas, at­ten­ded Friends.

 After sev­er­al short speeches dur­ing the ce­re­mony, pu­pils and teach­ers lined up on a cleared par­cel next to the land­mark school at Penn and Or­tho­dox streets where the new build­ing will go up. It will be the first new con­struc­tion at the school in dec­ades.

Crepe pa­per was pinned to the ground to in­dic­ate where cer­tain rooms and classes will be when the build­ing’s con­struc­tion is com­plete.

The new build­ing will in­clude three classrooms, a mu­sic spe­cialty classroom and a mul­tipur­pose room, which can be used for gym classes and com­munity meet­ings. 

The classrooms will ac­com­mod­ate sixth, sev­enth and eighth grades. The school had ob­tained ad­ja­cent par­cels and razed the build­ings to make room for the new struc­ture.

With the ex­tra space, total en­roll­ment is ex­pec­ted to rise from 125 to about 165. 

“That’s what we hope,” said Amy Sil­ver O’Leary, the school’s dir­ect­or of de­vel­op­ment and alumni re­la­tions.

The total pro­ject will cost about $1.8 mil­lion, Sil­ver O’Leary said, of which $1.4 mil­lion will be for con­struc­tion. It is set to be­gin in the next few weeks. She said Friends staff and alumni are hop­ing that the work will be fin­ished in about eight months.

Non-profits, alumni and loc­al busi­nesses have kicked in to cov­er the pro­ject’s cost. The state has budgeted $500,000 for the school, she said.

Be­cause so much state money is be­ing de­voted to the build­ing, there will be no re­li­gious in­struc­tion with­in the cur­riculum, she said, adding that very few pu­pils are from Quaker fam­il­ies.

State money doesn’t come without loc­al sup­port. The fund­ing re­quest for Friends came from Rep. Payton, with sup­port from state Sen. Christine Tartagli­one (D-2nd dist.).

“He worked tire­lessly to ad­voc­ate for the fund­ing,” Sil­ver O’Leary said of Payton. She ad­ded that Quinones-Sanc­hez also sup­por­ted the school’s cause with state of­fi­cials, and Tartagli­one pushed for the funds in the state Sen­ate.

Payton said ad­van­cing the school’s cause wasn’t easy.

First, there are really no writ­ten rules for get­ting money from the Re­devel­op­ment Cap­it­al As­sist­ance Pro­gram, funds that are in­ten­ded to pro­mote eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment.

Second, there is a lot of com­pet­i­tion for a lim­ited num­ber of dol­lars – 203 state rep­res­ent­at­ives, 50 state sen­at­ors and a gov­ernor.

Payton said his suc­cess­ful strategy keyed on mak­ing a pest of him­self to the gov­ernor’s of­fice.

May­or Nut­ter’s stop at the school on Sept. 13 was his second ap­pear­ance of the day in Frank­ford, and al­though he heard a little Mum­mers mu­sic earli­er at the Frank­ford Farm­ers Mar­ket, he really got ser­en­aded at Friends. School chil­dren per­formed a song about the mer­its and at­trac­tions of the city. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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